At a time when Democrats and Republicans agree on almost nothing, many agree on this:
Throwing thousands of kids into the adult justice system, mostly for misdemeanors, leads to one of two outcomes, both bad. They are either put right back on the street on probation or they get incarcerated with adults, scarring their psyche, marring their record and leading them down a road to nowhere.
Yet that’s what
Forty-eight other states see a better way, and
Bills to do that are sitting in committee. There are seven primary sponsors in the House and Senate – five Republicans and two Democrats. The bills stalled last year because of concerns about the cost of adding thousands of teens to the juvenile justice system. (Intense treatment, punishment and rehabilitation are more expensive than a revolving door.) But with bipartisan support, legislators should find a responsible way to make that transition.
Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, told us Wednesday that she and other legislators are laying the groundwork for that now. They would raise the age in 6-month increments, and they want to ensure that the community infrastructure exists to handle the influx of teens. These kids need “intensive interventions, both in their lives and in the lives of their families,”
More than just segregating children from adults, which is laudable in itself, this would be a whole new approach to stopping juvenile crime in
Biological research shows that the brains of teens that age are not fully developed. They do not control their impulses or fully appreciate the consequences of their actions. The juvenile justice system has significant potential to rehabilitate. The adult system has little.
Moving these kids to the juvenile system will cost money in the short term. But given a teen’s probable trajectory after being saddled with an adult record, it’s an investment likely to save in the long term.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Posted by The Observer Editorial Board at 7:41 PM